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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘CEO’

I Am Haredi

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I am haredi. I was born in Brooklyn, went to mainstream haredi elementary and high schools, spent two years in Mir Yerushalayim and attended kollel at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. I wear a black hat on Shabbos and dark pants and a white shirt much of the week. My yarmulke is large, black and velvet, and being a frum and inspired Jew is my most basic self-definition, on par with being human and male.

Am I haredi? I believe in the utter supremacy of Torah wisdom to secular knowledge. But I also believe one can see Hashem through analysis of the physical world and that many committed Jews who engage the sciences have a richer appreciation of Hashem because of it.

Am I haredi? I believe Torah study is a most worthy pursuit and the community should support and lionize scholars whose wisdom is clear and vision is pure. Writing sefarim, debating sevaros, and forging new paths in Torah is an effort worthy of a significant portion of our charitable dollars.

Am I haredi? I learned in kollel for four years and am now in the business world. Having observed and experienced the high cost of raising a large frum family and the gargantuan, often futile effort to attain those funds without a secular education, I am no longer sure that open-ended kollel-for-the-masses is a good idea. While kollel-for-all was critical in establishing a Torah society in the late 20th century, the second decade of the 21st century may be a time to reevaluate the socio-economic ramifications of thousands of men unable to support their families with dignity.

Am I haredi? I respond with disdain when some Orthodox leaders respond to theological challenges with nuance and apologetics rather than passion and conviction. We are blessed to live in a nation whose heartland craves traditional values. We are the Judeo rock of the Judeo-Christian bedrock of American civilization and should be proud to explain our beliefs and practices to those who question them. And I respond with disgust when some of my coreligionists defend observant Jews who knowingly bend the rules and break the law, bringing dishonor to our camp and disrepute to our mission.

Am I haredi? I like to read about current events and am fascinated by the interplay of religion and politics in America. I believe we should be involved in the political process as informed, concerned citizens with traditional values, not merely as a voting bloc looking for its share of the pie.

Am I haredi? I believe in the passionate worship of Hashem and that keeping of every nuance of halacha is our path to a relationship with the Creator. I believe intense Torah study can bring one to a closer relationship with God and we are most encouraged and inspired when we seek the advice and blessing of pious rabbis. I treasure my few conversations with HaRav Nosson Zvi Finkel, zt”l, the Mir rosh yeshiva, when I studied in his yeshiva. His was a purity you could see, a connection you could touch.

Am I haredi? I cut a deep line between Judaism and the culture that surrounds it, even if some of my brethren cannot. I regard most issues of dress, attitude and religious emphasis as the result of history and personality, not values and principles.

Am I haredi? I am embarrassed when some of my brethren don’t act appropriately in the larger society. I know they are merely extending the culture that works in their neighborhoods to the larger world as they pass through it. And I understand they are intelligent, kind people who are ignorant of the mores of American society. But I am embarrassed nonetheless.

Am I haredi? I believe many non-Jews have a relationship with God that is worthy of respect and encouragement.

Am I haredi? I believe that while the haredi world has become larger over the past few decades, much of that growth has been in nuance, not diversity. I wish there were less uniformity; it would keep our most creative youth more engaged.

Am I haredi? I believe the trend in our community toward sameness of dress and greater insularity was not a decision consciously made, but the result of the blending of the yeshiva and chassidic communities in the same neighborhoods. When you daven in the same shteibels and use the same mikvehs, you take on the tendencies of the other.

Sheldon Adelson’s Umbrella

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Sheldon Adelson is again under attack in the media. This time the billionaire is being criticized for his effort to target Jewish voters in swing states including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Why are the media so infatuated with an established self-made man who is doing what any active political advocate does – educating voters to see his point of view?

In today’s world, money affects politics on both the left and the right. It happens all over the world, not just in the United States, and maybe, just maybe, liberals are nervous because finally there’s someone on the right standing up to them with the force to be heard.

Like many Jews, Adelson votes on a variety of issues, not just Israel. He grew up with modest means as the son of immigrants. He dropped out of City College of New York and built a successful business. As his wealth increased, he turned to the Republican Party after realizing it was not fair to pay a higher percentage of taxes just because he worked to become a success.

I see it as he does. I am a product of the New York City public school system, have worked hard for my money and, according to government classifications, am “rich.” But I have also made many sacrifices to get where I am.

Adelson is surely reflective of changing Jewish demographics that show the Jewish community becoming more observant and traditional. He is reflective of a Jewish community that feels government is putting more strain on the hardworking entrepreneur. Government, local and national, is taxing energetic people who work every day to create opportunities for themselves and others.

Much of the mainstream media’s fascination with Adelson stems from the fact that he is a rarity – a tough Jew, a “Republican Conservative” putting his money where his mouth is, standing up and saying, “I am Jewish, proud and don’t give a damn what anyone has to say about it.”

It is refreshing and great to see. Many in the media are so accustomed to Jewish influence on the left that Adelson surprises and even frightens them.

Adelson is simply doing what his longtime friend Fred Zeidman said months ago he would: “…devote his energy and money to the overriding issue, which is beating Barack Obama.”

In a world where so many wealthy Jews follow the “Torah of Liberalism,” as Norman Podhoretz calls it, what is better than a man working for a strong America as he believes it should be? Adelson and others, like Dr. Irving Moskowitz, are working to make the world better for all who believe in an economically, physically and intellectually strong America – and using their money to help get the message out.

Every other socioeconomic group in the country moved rightward as their socioeconomic position improved – every group but the Jews. As the late Milton Himmelfarb wrote many years ago, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Himmelfarb meant that Jews earn like the rich establishment but vote like poor recent immigrants. This too will change.

The philosopher Max Nordau has been quoted as telling the Jewish leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky that “the Jew learns not by way of reason, but from catastrophes. He won’t buy an umbrella merely because he sees clouds in the sky. He waits until he is drenched and catches pneumonia.”

America is certainly in a catastrophic situation and it is pouring rain. Sheldon Adelson should be lauded for doing what he is doing.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of the largest U.S. PR agencies. He is an active Jewish philanthropist via the Ronn Torossian Foundation.

Colorado Shooter Was Camp Counselor for Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

James Holmes, the Colorado graduate student who is suspected of killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 58 others on Friday during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,”  worked as a camp counselor in Los Angeles County in 2008 that was run by Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters (JBBBS), the group’s CEO told NBC4 on Saturday.

James Holmes, 24, worked as cabin counselor at Camp Max Straus in the summer of 2008, according to Randy Schwab, the CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Schwab’s statement read: “It is with shock and sorrow that we learned of the incident in Aurora. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of those involved in this horrible tragedy. On behalf of Camp Max Straus I want to offer our deepest sympathies and condolences.”

Schwab said that, as cabin counselor, Holmes was in charge of the care and guidance of about 10 children. His role was to ensure that the children had a “wonderful camp experience.”

According to Schwab, Holmes helped the children in his care “learn confidence, self esteem and how to work in small teams to effect positive outcomes.”

His statement continued: “These skills are learned through activities such as archery, horseback riding, swimming, art, sports and high ropes course.”

Camp Max Straus is a nonsectarian program for children ages 7-14, which is run by Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Holmes is not Jewish.

The Scream

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

“The Scream,” a unique and evocative painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), sold recently at Sotheby’s for nearly $120,000,000. The price was attributed to its being the last of four editions still in private hands and the fact that it has been an icon of Western culture for over a century. The colors are vivid, the mood is stark, and the being on the bridge is overwhelmed by his surroundings. It captures a man alone in a world awry.

In explaining the experience he sought to portray, Munch wrote: “I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”

Munch was a secular man, not one easily led to converse with greater forces. He blamed his father’s obsessive religious practice for bequeathing him the seeds of psycosis. While historians attest that Munch did in fact touch madness, the popularity of his work and the duration of his prominence show that he also touched, through the medium of his art, a reality that underlies the human experience.

Munch was on a bridge with nowhere to turn. His hands were glued to the sides of his face, and he shouted a primal scream.

Judaism speaks to Munch’s experience. In Hebrew, the word for scream is “tze’akah.” It is used to convey the Jews’ calling out to God from slavery in Egypt – “And the Jews cried to God from their work” (Exodus 2:2).

In his classic philosophical work Gates of Prayer, Rabbi Shimshon Pincus explains that a scream is in fact a form of supplication. Prayer, he notes, is intensely primal and extensively faceted. Different words capture the different experiences – from fear to hope, confusion to inspiration – that lead one to reach out to the Almighty. A scream is a call to God from a world gone mad. It is the point where pain and fear grow so great that one cannot utter words to articulate the emotion within; all one can do is release a scream that courses through the veins and emits from the gut.

The Jews in Egypt were so aggrieved and afflicted that they could only scream. And the Torah says God listened to their screams and their ultimate redemption was set in motion.

In Jewish tradition, man calls to God and nature does, too. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Psalmist, “and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). I remember one particular night when I was a rabbinical student in Lakewood, New Jersey. It was late and I was walking from the study hall to the dormitory. The world was calm, the earth peaceful. I could sense, through my very being, creation singing to God.

I have no doubt that what I heard paralleled Munch’s experience but that my Jewish processor interpreted the signals in a very different way.

Munch and I could not be more dissimilar. He was a talented artist and I am a hard working meat purveyor. He lived a solitary life raising neither children not students, and I am blessedly married and the father of six children.

We define life differently, too. As his end came near, Munch wrote, “From my rotting body flowers shall grow, and I am in them and that is eternity.” As a believing Jew I would have said, “From my rotting body my soul will ascend, to achieve closeness to the Perfection it has always pursued, and that is eternity.”

Yet, in a way, I closely identify with Munch. I too see a world aflame. I peer out of the walls of my insular Orthodox Jewish community and see a secular culture in which the rich and pretty are portrayed as cultural authorities, and Jewish and Christian leaders are cut down to size.

I see a world in which families inspired by Judeo-Christian values are presented as born into prejudicial sin, and where the nemesis of family, secular feminism, is given award and acclaim even though it only respects women when they acquire masculine traits – hardly a celebration of femininity. It weakens the mind and troubles the spirit.

What In Obama’s Record On Israel Does Romney Oppose?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Gov. Mitt Romney has made some outrageous comments and taken some extreme positions in this presidential campaign. But few, if any, are more baffling than his latest statement on his plans for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Asked what he would do to strengthen America’s alliance with Israel, he said, “by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite.”

With this statement, given via video conference to the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, Romney clearly found a cheap applause line for a conservative audience.

Yet it also begs a few questions: What does he mean when he says he’ll “do the opposite”? Where, exactly, will he change course? What in President Obama’s strong pro-Israel record does the presumptive Republican nominee oppose?

Romney’s foray into foreign affairs may make for a good sound bite, but it is no substitute for sound policy. It reflects one of two options: Either he is willfully ignorant of the president’s record, or he’s planning to drive the U.S.-Israel partnership in reverse and undermine the security of the Jewish state.

Let’s consider the facts.

President Obama has restored and increased Israel’s qualitative military edge, which eroded under his Republican predecessor. He has provided record levels of aid for Israel’s security and supplemented U.S. assistance with more than $1 billion in new funds for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow missile defense systems. He has committed American troops to the largest-ever joint military exercises with their IDF counterparts.

The president has said repeatedly that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, from any threat. Under his leadership, the United States is ensuring Israel has the means to do so.

It’s no wonder that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he “can hardly remember a better period of…American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.”

And Mitt Romney wants to do the opposite?

In the diplomatic realm, the Obama administration has voted with Israel’s interests 100 percent of the time at the United Nations. It has consistently defended Israel at the UN and in other international forums. It has boycotted the Durban conferences – because America knows that Zionism is not racism.

After President Obama’s impassioned speech in defense of Israel at the UN last fall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the president could wear his actions as a “badge of honor.”

And, again, Mitt Romney wants to do the opposite?

President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security has shined brightest on one of the greatest challenges to regional and global security today: the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. The president knows that preventing a nuclear Iran is not only in Israel’s interests, it’s in our own national security interests.

That’s why he has imposed and implemented the most comprehensive sanctions regime against Iran in history – with more on the way. That’s why he built an international coalition dedicated to keeping the bomb out of Iranian hands. That’s why the president has promised to take no options off the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons – whether diplomatic, economic, political or even military.

The president has made clear that containment is not an option, that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and that the United States will continue to act on its promises. This president means what he says. He backs words with deeds. He does not bluff.

Indeed, just last week, Israeli President Shimon Peres – honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor – said, “Mr. President, you have pledged a lasting friendship for Israel. You stated that Israel’s security is sacrosanct. So you pledged. So you acted. So you’re acting – as a great leader, as a genuine friend.”

All this, and Mitt Romney still wants to do the opposite?

There are plenty of areas of disagreement between the president and Gov. Romney, and the distinctions will certainly stand front and center from now until Election Day in November. The American people will have a clear choice. Part of that choice will be between a president who has strengthened and solidified Israel’s security and a candidate pledging to “do the opposite.”

Installing My Internet Filter

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Tonight I installed an Internet filter. I have always disliked filters as they slow down my computer and have been an annoyance. But the asifa at Citi Field focused my attention and an extra safeguard is worth infinitely more than the discomfort it engenders.

I live on the Internet and crave a fast connection to it. Every second I wait for a click-through slows my thought process and reaction time, and puts me at a disadvantage in a business climate where quick responses and rapid absorption of information are points of entry.

I’m in the meat business. I begin my workday on the Internet, scanning the latest news. Going around the world in ten minutes leaves me feeling refreshed, energized and ready to take on another day.

Then I check cattle prices and news related to the meat packing industry. It takes about another ten minutes to know all I need to know from news reports that relate to our industry.

It is amazing how quickly times have changed. Had I ordered a dozen newspapers delivered to my door, I couldn’t have read one newspaper in the same amount of time.

I work with a basic product, meat. The animal hasn’t changed since Hashem created it. But even our commodity business is changing at a rapid pace. There are new packaging options, changing consumer trends, new USDA regulations, and improved and creative marketing techniques. Like many small businesses, we are a company of three people doing the work of six. And like most small businesses, we consider ourselves fortunate to be remaining afloat in today’s difficult business climate.

Having cut my teeth in the non-profit world and now spending much of my time in the for-profit arena, one of the greatest distinctions I find is that the for-profit world is the world of utter reality. There are no platitudes or committees and you don’t lead by consensus. If you have a good product at a good price delivered in a timely fashion you have the business. It is about reality and performance, not intention. And you are judged daily by your clients.

The spiritual challenges of the Internet are immense. I spend much of my day in conversation with Midwest truck drivers and New York butchers, who are not prone to talk around an issue. Let’s talk reality: There is a base desire among males which is akin to a recovered alcoholic’s hankering for cheap, sweet wine. With the Internet unchecked, the tap is a click away. The potential for addiction and relapse is great.

Yet while I appreciate the severity of the problem, I am concerned about the way our community is responding to it. The longer I live the more convinced I am that the solution to moral weakness lies within self, not in external regulation. The solution to male weakness is to keep man fulfilled; and a good place to start is his primal desire to protect and provide for his wife and children.

When a man purchases a home with a yard and a tall fence, with money he earned by providing a unique skill to others in return for fair payment for his expertise, he is fortified as a man. When that same man is inspired with a mission of Kiddush Shem Shamayim, to be an ambassador of decency and Godliness to the world, he is fortified as a Jew.

Manly duty on the outside and religious fervor on the inside – yegi’as shneihem meshkachas avon.

When the goal is Kiddush Hashem and the mission is to change the world, the allure of Internet smut is weak. It is no more attractive than a shady business deal to a seasoned and respected businessman. He wouldn’t do it under any circumstances, even if the potential profit were dangled before him.

The self-control comes from manliness, pride and dignity.

Secular society weakens the male. A man’s natural leadership ability is a threat to the politically correct insistence on the sameness of the sexes. Our frum community may, inadvertently, be weakening the male as well. I remember writing an article for a yeshiva newsletter about a Halacha Chabura. Just before publication I was told by the editor to add a line that said, “Of course, no decisions can be made without consultation with a Rav.” The rosh chabura commented to me: “If someone spends months studying a subject l’halacha, should he not be able to live as he learns?” Why the weakness?

World’s Largest Haredi News Portal Suspected of Corruption, Blackmail

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

B’Hadrei Haredim (a clever wordplay switching the terms “innermost rooms” and “rooms of the ultra Orthodox,” invented in 1994 by then Yedioth America columnist David Argaman), is the largest ultra-Orthodox portal in the world. It prides itself on offering surfers “a comprehensive and updated information in a variety of areas: news, rebbes’ courtyards, economics, consumer issues, culture, health and science, computers and the Internet, personal columns, ultra-Orthodox women’s issues, transportation, food, tourism, and videos and image galleries from around the world.”

But one very important news item which has been at the center of public curiosity for two days now, is missing from this website: reports of the arrest of four of its own top managers on suspicion of pervasive blackmail operations.

On Monday, the magistrate court in Jerusalem extended the arrest of the site’s CEO, who is suspected of ongoing blackmailing of prominent public figures in the Haredi sector.

According to Police, B’Hadrei Haredim’s CEO attempted to “squeeze” the top Haredi businessmen, as well as business outfits, threatening that if they did not pay him large sums of money, he would publish negative reports about them and block the posting of positive articles.

In the current wave of arrests, which may not yet be over, four senior site employees were arrested, and several other employees were brought in for questioning. Among those arrested was the director of the news section and his sales manager, both of whom are suspected of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior community members.

Another high level suspect, in addition to the CEO, is the website’s Content Director, who, according to Police, was part of a comprehensive extortion operation run by B’Hadrei Haredim.

The suspects have allegedly threatened rabbis, politicians and business executives over the past two years. Victims were told to pay tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars – some through advertising contracts – in return for removing negative articles and talkbacks. A number of companies were asked to pay not only for blocking negative comments, but also for publishing praising comments about them.

Police suspect that much of the commenting traffic on the website was being generated and directed by site employees.

The Central Investigation Unit of the Jerusalem District Police conducted secret investigations over a long period of time, but the sudden revelation of a new, “hot” extortion attempt of a well known Haredi community activist led to the decision to go public with the case.

It began with a rumor that was spread over the site, about an adulterous relationship in which Haredi businessman Jacob Berger was supposedly engaged. Berger met with the site’s CEO (whose name and the names of the other suspects have not been released). Three recording devices which had been planted in Berger’s office failed to record the conversation – Police suspect that the CEO was carrying a disruptive signal generator. Either way, a video camera hidden inside the office wall revealed all.

According to Ynet, the CEO told Berger, “I have very few customers – very limited. I make sure they’re happy. They can sleep peacefully. My smallest client brings in ten thousand dollars a month.”

The CEO’s detention was extended until Thursday this week and the other suspects have been discharged under restrictive conditions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/worlds-largest-haredi-news-portal-suspected-of-corruption-blackmail/2012/04/04/

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